“… it’s inevitable that we’ve got to bring out the question of the tragic mix-up in priorities. We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development… when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer.” – Dr. Martin Luther King
During the era of the Civil Rights movement, another troubling issue was at hand that wasn’t just equality for Americans. The Vietnam War also occupied much of America’s mind. These two significant issues, however, were not being dealt properly by the United State’s government. Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 included that the government was able to put anyone in prison for up to five years if they are related in some way to a riot (which was defined as “three or more people involving threats of violence”). This shows the government’s feeble attempt to quell civilian unrest while still not directly dealing with it. Much of the focus was instead shifted towards the war. With King’s quote, it demonstrates how much the domestic problems that were not being prioritized were affecting the people. Zinn talks about this because of how much inner turmoil the country was going through and how little it was being focused upon by the government. In a way, it links to the title of the whole chapter, “Or Does it Explode?” There’s only so much something can put pushed to the backseat, or suppress an issue without really focusing on it, before it bursts. With this, Zinn shows the government’s neglect on the matter and its consequences.
The film depicts slavery in varying intensities. In some scenes, the treatment of slaves are shown as brutal, harsh, and cruel. Then in other moments, some slaves live cushy lives with extravagant food and clothes. When the viewer first comes across Dr. King Schultz, it was obvious that he found slavery distasteful. He even goes about saying so to Django in the bar. Despite that, he does to use it to his advantage by not wanting Django to refuse his offer to go after the Brittle brothers (and also confessing his guilt towards this). At this point, another manner of slavery is shown. Going back to when the pair first ride off, a song is heard with the lyrics about King. At one point the lyrics say;
“Oh, I heard him singing,
I knew he loved someone.
His name was King (His name was King)
He had a brother (He had a brother)”
The song goes on to explain that King’s brother was killed and that is the reason why he became a bounty hunter, to find his brother’s killer. Right off the bat of their deal, King is not presented as his owner any longer and becomes a sort of mentor to Django; telling him to take off his hat upon entering a building or to take it off the table, teaching him how to read, and eventually the tricks of the bounty hunter trade. The two grow closer and they even go past a teacher/student relationship to something stronger and more familial. Back in the bar scene where King explains to Django that he is using his position as a slave owner for his benefit and it is apparent after all their time together that King didn’t just purchase a partner, he also purchased a brother. This relationship goes so far towards a real brotherly bond, that King risks his life and ultimately dies for Django’s cause; saving Broomhilda. King is not stressed or afraid by his inevitable death in this quick moment, but instead calm and accepting. It is never known if he ever caught his brother’s killer, but at this point Django has become his brother and instead of letting the same thing happen, he accepts the bullet. That moment in the bar is so important to the foundation of their future relationship, that it is easily dismissed that King had actually purchased Django as a slave from the start.